My session last night wasn’t what I needed.
I don’t know what is was that I did need, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it.
As Sienna sat down and we said our Hello’s I could tell she wasn’t well. She said she had a heavy cold and that she’d actually swithered about texting me to tell me. I’m not sure whether she meant to cancel the session or to give me the choice of coming and risking catching her germs!
I asked her how she was feeling and she said she was fine while she was dosed up on paracetamol but when it started wearing off, she could feel her temperature rising a bit. Her voice was husky, and I could tell she was pretty loaded with the cold.
We chatted easily about random things that are happening at this time of year, with the kids now finishing school for the summer. We got onto the topic of my experience of school and the transition between primary school to high school. And that led to talking about what life was like for me back then. It’s never easy to go there. I cried. I felt the pain and loneliness of that time.
I was able to tell her about my flashback the other night, about remembering what it was like to not have access to my mum, that she would go away for two weeks at a time (Because she lived far away) and she’s visit for a few hours and then drop me home and the feeling as she drove away was one of grief, pain, fear, longing and heavy doom. But I never showed it. I never cried. But I missed my mum, I missed my old life when she still lived with me. I missed the familiarity and routine we used to have. I missed her smell, her perfume, her laugh. I missed her just being there. The home we used to live in was just a shell now. A house, but not a home. It always felt like the life and air just left and it felt perpetually empty. Just like me.
Sienna immediately linked it to how I feel when she goes away. She asked if it’s the same feelings? I nodded.
I always knew my difficulties with Sienna’s breaks were related to attachment stuff and my childhood experiences but I knew it in a rather generic sense. But this flashback I’d had, helped me remember and relive how it felt to watch my mother, my sense of home, my compass, just drive away.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother was not perfect, she had problems of her own. She abandoned her kids and left the country. She was unattuned and disorganised herself and at times dissociated. Sienna reckons she sounds like she struggled with BPD and certainly that would fit. Perhaps if she’d stayed she’d have done more damage, though I doubt it. Because the chaos that ensued afterwards for her was probably what triggered her the most. Marriage and kids had tethered her, given her stability which in turn made her a bit more stable. Without that construct, she just flapped in the wind, she created chaotic scenarios, she indulged her inner teenager, she became selfish and self-absorbed and made terrible choices. And I was witness to it all.
But she was the only Mother I knew and despite not being a very good one, I loved her of course and needed her. So, her leaving us was traumatic.
I remember at one point in the session as Sienna talked, I had a sudden urge to slide into the foetal position. I already had me feet up underneath me and was hugging an oversized cushion but suddenly I wanted to lie my head down. Away from this subject. I resisted though.
The whole session felt a bit lacking. I was missing Sienna’s usual energy. And even though we were talking about therapy topics, it felt like Sienna wasn’t there so much. I didn’t feel so contained and so it felt like we were picking at a painful scab but I was not getting any relief from it. It didn’t feel like there was much processing going on. Just reliving painful memories.
It’s hard to explain it. Because Sienna was empathic, and she did track me, she did her job. But not in the same way, not in a way that made me feel relief to get these memories out, not in a way that made any of it feel held.
I can only put it down to her feeling unwell and not having the same energy levels.
I thought to myself in the session how much I’d needed her to be her tonight. That the parts starting to wake up inside, combined with the building fear of her next break, was needing attended to. And I knew from her un-wellness that I had to hold it more for myself. I had to keep hold of it all probably for the rest of this week. I didn’t and still don’t want to hold it for myself. I feel a bit of fear and discomfort and a shaky challenging feeling that I need to try and not lean so hard on her when she’s low on energy.
Yet the very knowledge that I need to try and hold it by myself for longer, stirs up the parts and makes them start to escalate. I’m trying hard to not let that happen. I’m trying to keep it together. I am trying to stay engaged with the adult part of me, stay in the present. So there’s a part of me that needs to stifle the younger parts needs in order to keep feeling within the adult part, which is the safest and easiest place to be.
I say easiest. It’s not easy to stay IN the adult part. It’s not easy to call up that part and get it to take over. It’s very hit and miss whether I am able to. I feel very at the mercy of all the parts, there’s no choice for me as to what part comes out and takes over. I wish there was a choice. I wish I could engage each part as needed, like some sort of super hero who accesses their power when needed.
But when I am in the Adult place, that’s when life is easiest for me. That’s when I can get rest from the psychological war that resides within me most of the time. Being in the adult place is respite and it is also a place where time doesn’t slow down and where everything is mostly okay.
If I allow those young parts to feel, if I allow them to have their say, then I risk being dragged out of my adult rest place, my adult coping place and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to get back there. There’s too much risk associated with allowing the young parts to speak right now.
It doesn’t feel good though, to stifle the young parts, to tell them that they can’t come out right now.
A few hours after my session, it occurred to me how grateful I was that Sienna hadn’t cancelled the session. That she probably just wanted to be in bed but she came in to meet her clients. I’m really glad she didn’t cancel yet I also felt bad for her that she knew it wouldn’t have gone down well with my young parts if she’d cancelled.
I text her to say thank you for coming in even though she was unwell, that I appreciated that and that I hoped she’d get a good night’s sleep and feel better tomorrow. She replied to say that she was already in bed. Poor Sienna, she must have been shattered if she went home and straight to bed.
She thanked me for caring.
That sentiment jarred with me. Thanking me for caring…. Does she think I normally don’t care about her wellbeing?
I think I know that maybe what she meant was “ Thank you for that caring text” or something.
But it did make me wonder… is me caring about her and her needs or wellbeing really news to her? Does she deep down think that I only love and care about her in context to her being well enough to look after me? That any love and care I have for her is linked to that child-like egocentric need for “ mummy to be okay so she can look after me properly?”
I’m not going to lie, of course there’s an element of that.
But I rarely ever get opportunity to care about her as a person or take care of her in some way or express my care and concern for her wellbeing. The relationship is expressly engineered with boundaries to ensure that I never have to consider her needs, I never have to find myself in the position where I feel compelled to take care of her. The boundaries keep me away from her in so many ways.
This relationship is engineered to be “ all about me.” She is the caretaker and I am the ego-centric child. She gives, I take. Everything about our relationship is about me and my needs. And there’s this unsaid but palpable boundary that she as a real person with needs, is off limits to me.
But as a result of that dynamic, does she (maybe unconsciously) think that because I come into sessions and even though she’s unwell or tired, I still speak all about me, that it’s because I don’t care? That my priority is only me?
Because it really isn’t the case. I am not selfish, and actually, my immediate reaction is to want to care-take. I want to make her feel better. I want to make her cups of tea and lemon. I want to go buy her super soft tissues and lend her my air purifier and essential oils and I want to tuck her into bed and put the light out and give her rest.
I’ve found myself feeling slightly annoyed that I am not scheduled in for another session this week, because if I was, then I’d take her in some fresh lemons and limes for her hot water. I find myself wanting to take her something to help and to show my care.
I “ignore” her obvious un-wellness in sessions because that’s how the relationship is set up, that is what the boundaries say. There isn’t much space to show her my care and that’s hard for me. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to give a little bit back. Sienna does so much for me and I would hate to think that she thinks I never consider or care about how she is feeling.
I know I’m probably way overthinking her comment of “ Thank you for caring.”
But it seems important. My reaction to that statement, the mild hurt and surprise that she even had to thank me for that? Of course I care, I always care. It’s just that there’s not much room to show her that within the dynamics of the therapy relationship.